Go Dad Go!

A self-important blog about riding bikes, raising kids and the all-too-rare nexus of these two pursuits.

Monday, June 15, 2009


You've paid your $30 entry fee. You've purchased fancy race wheels and tubular tires, glued them together and mounted compatible brake pads. You packed your race-day bag, complete with the special fueling arsenal you finally hit on. You threw in extra wheels, and a trainer, and tools and a pump, and you set and adhered to your alarm -- 5:20 a.m. on a Saturday morning.

Oh, and you trained for this race. Some.

All that preparation; you wouldn't let a little rain keep you from racing at Pescadero, would you?

If you were me you would!

In business school I learned about sunk costs; in essence, I believe the point was that having already spent money shouldn't make you take risks you wouldn't normally consider. Figuring the entry fee -- and all that time spent packing and preparing -- was a sunk cost, I stood near the start line of this 75 mile race, replete with thousands of feet of elevation gain, and thousands more of snaky, likely slippery descents, stared up at the sky and thought, "I'm pretty sure the sun's shining in Palo Alto."

I told my friends and teammates as much; about half issued some derivation of "wimp," typically far less civil, while the others said something like, "Huh. Interesting." Driving away I felt serious regret pangs -- until my car's wheels gave out for a moment climbing up the back of Haskins Hill, the course's key feature.

In Palo Alto I parked my car beneath cloudy skies, but on dry pavement, and rode until I met up with the Spectrum Ride, a renowned group ride that can be like a race, but that seemed slimmer and maybe a bit slower; makes sense, with a race going on not far away. But as they say, If the ride is too slow, go to the front -- so I went to the front for a fair amount of the circuit.

Even with Pescadero happening, there were still some strong riders out, some 2s and fellow 3s, and one kid who seemed intent on driving things every time the road turned up. The ride includes a number of surge-sections and three sprint points, the most notable of which comes on Portola Road, just before Alpine, a couple of miles after a 500-meter rise. The kid told me he would gun it on that rise and would try to stay away; sure enough, he jumped on his pedals the moment we started climbing. His wasn't much of an attack, and I was able to get right on his wheel. After 20 seconds of gradual acceleration, though, we were flying up the climb; he slowed just perceptibly, and I came around for a pull of all of five seconds before he went to the front again.

We rode like this -- flat-out, his pulls twice as long as mine -- over the crest, down the gradual slope into Portola Valley, past windy hill and up the steady rise to the finish line. I'd tried this very move before, and while I was pretty sure we were moving faster than I'd managed in the past, I was certain I'd glance back and see the surging field 30 meters behind. Before doing so I stood, and stomped, and went to the front, and put in a surge that had me beyond the redline, head dangling over the bars and legs and lungs searing. I kept it up for 30 seconds, glanced back and saw...no one behind us.

We swung around the final bend, saw the line at the PV fire station, sat up and shook hands. The field came through about 20 seconds later. Speaking with someone else on the return trip, I found out that my mate is a very accomplished professional triathlete; I'd chosen well.

We rode back to Stanford, and then down to Los Altos and beyond; I turned around and rode alone for another 90 minutes. I returned to my car dry, and unscathed, and with 75 miles on my odometer.

I don't know if such an effort would have earned me any points at Pescadero; I heard later from one teammate that the course wasn't so slippery -- and from another that he and others all decked it on the very descent I'd been dreading. So I feel justified.


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